LA CROSSE (WKBT) -- Teens from all over the Midwest are getting their tech on. The Seven Rivers Regional robotics competition began on Friday and one Arcadia High School junior is encouraging more girls to join science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs.
The fans inside the La Crosse Center aren’t here for a sporting event. The players on the field are straight out of the Terminator.
“125-pound robots. And the kids are carrying them on and off the field," said Seven River Regional co-chair Betty Baker.
It’s time for Seven Rivers Regional's annual robotics competition.
“They get the dimensions and they need to know the tasks they need to complete. They get six weeks to build before they start competing against each other," said Baker.
54 teams from all over the Midwest are competing to make it to the playoffs, but one contestant is here to prove a point.
Briana Ruiz is a junior at Arcadia High School and part of the Trempealeau County Robots.
“Since freshman year I was taking a lot of engineering classes through Western Technical College," said Ruiz.
She’s also an engineer extraordinaire.
“Actually, I was the first woman, first person of color, and first person in general from Trempealeau County to get a CSWA certification," said Ruiz.
With four certifications under her belt, Ruiz is already breaking glass ceilings. She's done with her high school classes, but Ruiz says she can’t graduate early. She’ll be taking classes at UW-Stout next year as a senior in high school.
“I was able to achieve and get an internship at Ashley Automation Center. I am currently the only girl, unfortunately, but hopefully, those numbers will change as more women go into the field," said Ruiz.
Achievements are worth celebrating, but Ruiz says they have an extra special meaning when they can also bring change.
“Being able to have that representation there and be like 'oh, I’m Hispanic too' or 'oh, I’m of color, there’s a woman here.' There’s so much support," said Ruiz.
Ruiz hopes her passion and determination inspire other girls to join STEM programs.
“We get held back a lot because we’re told it’s not our field when in reality, it’s just like any other career and we should be just as involved as anyone else," said Ruiz.
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Duaa Israr graduated from DePaul University in June 2021 with a double major in journalism and political science. She was raised in Skokie, Illinois, a suburb right outside Chicago. During her time at DePaul, Duaa wrote for the student-run newspaper The DePaulia and the student-run magazine 14 East. After switching over from print news to broadcast, Duaa worked for the student-run television station, Good Day DePaul. In her free time, Duaa enjoys reading, painting, trying new recipes, and spending time with her family!